All and All Things
By Charles H. Welch
ALL AND ALL THINGS, Greek pas. This word occurs over 1,100 times in the New Testament and is variously translated ‘all’, ‘every’, ‘whosoever’ and other equivalent terms too numerous for us to tabulate here.
Let us acquaint ourselves with the usage of this word in the New Testament. ‘Every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5) sounds universal, but is limited to a radius of some 400 miles, as a reference to verses 9-11 will reveal. In Colossians 1:16 we read of the creation of all things that are in heaven and in earth, that Christ is before all things and that by Him all things consist. Yet in the space of a few verses, Paul says that the gospel entrusted to him had been preached to ‘every creature which is under heaven’ (Col. 1:23). We have no certain knowledge that Paul fulfilled his wish to preach the gospel in Spain, he certainly did not cover the continents of Africa, America or Asia, yet he is free to use such terms.
When Paul wrote ‘all things are lawful for me’ (1 Cor. 10:23) he most certainly did not mean that it would have been lawful for him to lie, steal, murder or break any other commandment of God or of conscience. When he said that Love ‘believeth all things’, he most certainly did not teach that the highest exhibition of love was an uncritical gullibility. So, therefore, it behoves us to approach the question of the meaning of ‘all’ with care. Let us consider some expressions that are of dispensational importance as well as which illustrate the need for this care in interpretation.
‘All Israel’. Are we to understand from Romans 11:26 that all Israel there means every single individual who can trace his pedigree back to Jacob or to Abraham? We must remember that Romans 11 is one of three chapters which form a unit, and unless we see the passages as a whole, we shall not be able to discern ‘the wood for the trees’. A somewhat condensed structure of Romans 9 to 11 is as follows.
For a fuller exposition of Romans 9 to 11 see the book, Just and the Justifier, by the author. In Romans 9 the apostle had said:
The underlying principle of election and promise influence the extent of the word ‘all’ here.
‘All in Adam’. In like manner we could paraphrase Romans 9:6-8 and say, ‘they are NOT ALL IN ADAM, which are physically descended from Adam, but "in Christ" the true seed are called’, for there are many evidences in the Scriptures to show that there are TWO SEEDS in the earth, and one of them is not of God. (See SEED , IN ADAM).
When Paul says, in 1 Timothy 4:10, ‘He is the Saviour of all men’, universal redemption is not implied, for if he had meant that, he could not have added ‘especially of them that believe’. ta panta. It is of extreme importance that we distinguish between those passages of Scripture which use panta ‘all things’ and ta panta some particular ‘all things’. The term ‘all things’ occurs a little over sixty times in the epistles alone; forty references are without the article, and the remaining twenty include the article. We intend to direct particular attention to the construction used in the smaller division (ta panta), but must just briefly touch upon the wider expression in passing. The first occurrences in the epistles of the two constructions, with and without the article, are in Romans 8:28 and 32.
Here the word is without the article and includes evil as well as good. In verse 32 we read:
Of course the article here may be merely the ‘second mention’, and may refer back to verse 28; there are reasons, however, for doubting this. First, the reference is some distance away; secondly, it comes in a new section commencing with the words, ‘what shall we then say?’ of verse 31; thirdly, the fact that the all things of verse 28, which are under the hand of God, may include most conflicting agents (Satan, the world, and evil as well as good), whereas in verse 32 the all things are graciously given ‘with Him’. This seems to lead us to see that ‘the all things’ may be a much less inclusive expression than ‘all things’ and further, that the special term ta panta has been used by the Holy Spirit with a special meaning which it is our wisdom to investigate and to understand.
We meet the expression again in Romans 11:36 in a setting which is typical of its usage. After bringing before the reader the amazing grace and matchless mercy of God in His final dealings with Israel, the apostle concludes with the doxology:
It will be observed that it does not say that the Lord is the originating cause of all things universally, but of the all things. It does not say that He is the ministerial cause of all things universally, but only of the all things, and it does not say that all things universally are unto Him as the final cause, but the all things. This emphasis at once suggests the question, what all things? and it is with a view to providing a scriptural answer that we continue our investigations.
Even in the wider and more universal expression (that is with the article omitted), there are necessary limitations. The apostle said ‘all things are lawful’, but this is not universally true. Murder, lying, thieving, etc., were no more lawful to Paul the apostle than to Saul the Pharisee. ‘All things’ must be considered in the light of the restrictions imposed by the law of Moses, the traditions of the Elders and the contextual references to various foods, idolatrous connections, etc. Ephesians 6:21, Philippians 3:8, 1 Timothy 6:17 and Titus 1:15 will supply other examples of the limitations of this wider expression.
Returning to the doxology of Romans 11:36, we compare it with the statement of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 8:5,6. In Romans 11 the Scripture does not differentiate between ‘Him’ of whom are all things, and ‘Him’ through whom are all things. He is called ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ in the context (see verses 33 and 34). It is evident that the God of verse 33 is the Lord of verse 34, and the fourfold ‘Him’ of verse 36. The apostle who wrote Romans 11 had written 1 Corinthians 8:5,6 and felt under no obligation to attempt to explain that which superficially is a difficulty to some. In contrast to the heathen conception of gods many and lords (ie., Baalim, demons, mediums) many, the believer recognizes one God, the Father, the originating cause of the all things (ta panta), and one Lord, Jesus Christ, the ministerial and mediating cause in reference to the same ‘the all things’ (ta panta) and consequently to such ‘an idol is nothing in the world’.
Again the force of the expression (the all things) must be observed. This emphasis upon origin and ministerial cause is met with in the next reference, 1 Corinthians 11:12:
The next passage (1 Cor. 15:27,28) we must consider together with Hebrews 2:8-10 :
We must not take it as proved that God cannot be all in all in the destruction of some as in the salvation of others; it is a sentimental conclusion which must not weigh with us here. In this passage we find the wider expression used first, then in repetition the article is used, and in this case it would seem that throughout one aspect is intended. This is further emphasized by the one exception which emphasizes the universality of all things which are to be subjected beneath the feet of Christ. Hebrews 2:8-10 definitely states this:
Returning for a moment to 1 Corinthians 15:27,28 we must remember that the context speaks of the subjection and destruction of enemies. In verse 24 we read:
It is manifest by the sequence of thought that the principalities, authorities and powers which are to be destroyed are enemies, otherwise the connection of verses 24 and 25 by the word ‘for’ loses its force. Turning to Ephesians 1:21-23 we read of the exaltation of Christ as being -
It will be at once noticed that we have the repetition of those spiritual powers which were mentioned so particularly in 1 Corinthians 15. The epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians speak of principalities and powers several times, and as it is evident that these are largely in view with regard to the subject under consideration, we will take note of the passages before passing on.
The parallelism of these verses is worth noticing:
As we read these passages together it seems difficult to think that the very different references are all to the same spiritual powers. Some we find are placed beneath the Lord’s feet (Eph. 1:22), and this position is not the place of the members of His body - to them He is Head. These same subjected powers (being guided by the parallel in 1 Corinthians 15 and the emphasis there on enemies) seem to be the antagonizing spirits of Ephesians 6:12, and the ones over whom the Lord triumphed by reason of the cross. Others seem to be more closely associated with the Church. Some are learning by the Church the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10), and are linked with the Church of the One Body by having Christ as a common Head (Col. 2:10).
The believer has been delivered from the authority (exousia) of darkness by the Lord who is the image of the invisible God, First-born of every creature. The meaning of the term ‘Firstborn’ is defined by the reason given in the next sentence. He is First-born of every creature because by Him were all things created. As we ponder the creations enumerated in Colossians 1:16 and their relation to the pre-eminence of the Son of God, it becomes manifest that we are not dealing with such creatures as are enumerated in Psalm 8:7 -
- but with mighty powers and beings over whom the Lord Jesus Christ is pre-eminent. The whole enumeration has reference to visible and invisible dominions and spiritual powers and by comparison with the other passages referring to the principalities, it would seem that some of these mighty beings not only antagonized the Church (Eph. 6:12) and Israel (Dan. 10), but also the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and it is the reconciliation of these ‘all things’ with which Colossians 1 is particularly concerned. Chapter 2 also shows that the opposition of these angelic powers in reference to ‘holding the Head’ is still prominent in the inspired writer’s mind.
It will be further observed that man is not mentioned in verse 16, for man is not included in the all things enumerated in that verse, he is treated quite separately in verse 18, as included in the Church. The reconciliation of the all things (ta panta) looks back to those spiritual powers on earth, or in heaven, and man is introduced into the subject of reconciliation quite separately in verse 21.
1 Peter 3:22 emphasizes the subjection of angelic and spiritual powers to the risen Lord:
Romans 8:38,39 includes them among the possible agencies that might be thought antagonistic to the believer:
It certainly appears that those angelic dominions are ranged under two heads, some antagonistic to the Lord and His people, and some ranged under the Lord as Head both now and in the fulness of the seasons (Eph. 1:10).
Ta panta by its recurrence and contexts seems to be a term having in most cases a specific meaning. Those who dismiss the subject by saying of Colossians 1:16,17,18 and 20, it reads ‘all things’ and that is enough for me, are not rendering the homage to verbally inspired Scripture that they imagine. It does not say all things, but THE all things, and the insertion of the article at once defines and narrows the expression. The all things that are to be reconciled are described, they are in the main creatures of which we know practically nothing. Believers are now reconciled, but they are not included in the all things of the verse under notice.
All things universally will be placed in subjection beneath the Lord, either beneath His feet or under Him as Head, the narrower expression ta panta is the term used by God when speaking of the reconciliation of all things. Let us keep close to the words of the Word. May grace be given to both reader and writer to prove all things and to hold fast that which is good (see RECONCILIATION and SEED).